In larger enterprises, there may be more room to specialise, but in small-to-mid-size organisations, few have that luxury. Systems are becoming more and more complex and no individual can realistically keep up with everything. Who you know is becoming more important. IT managers who have built up a strong network of experts will find their efforts paying off.
As the digital economy gathers pace, any organisation that fails to include its IT department in high-level plans is limiting itself. Meanwhile those giving IT a much-merited position in the boardroom give themselves a much better chance to thrive.
Let’s face it, the opportunities are huge. Gartner estimate there are 8.4 billion devices currently connected worldwide. The number is set to increase rapidly – analysts’ Spectrum predict the Internet of Things (IoT) will link 20 billion devices by 2020. Tech-savvy businesses are fast finding ways to harness the IoT, and some are already achieving exciting results.
Outcomes such as gathering, sharing and analysing massive volumes of health data in research facilities mean researchers can work more quickly towards cures. Like tracking individual data about cattle in a milking herd, to improve bovine health and increase milk yield. And alerting customers to special offers that are tailored to their interests, the moment they enter a shop.
Yet with the opportunities also come risks. Recent malware attacks, such as those that hit Britain’s National Health Service and Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, are a hint of things to come. Security is set to be one of the biggest preoccupations for IT professionals.
Fortinet – a Gartner Enterprise Firewall Magic Quadrant leader – sees a collaborative approach as a necessity when faced with increasingly devious cyber-criminals. Its intelligent fabric heralds a shift from vendors used to creating stand-alone security devices. The network fabric allows security devices across the network to share intelligence, so that each layer builds on defences, and crash-tackles attacks that evade traditional defences.
The other priority that Fortinet identifies is visibility. This is something that most in IT will see as common sense – if you can see a threat, you have a much better chance of dealing with it before it wreaks havoc. That is, of course, easier said than done in today’s complex environments. Still, emerging solutions do address the challenge remarkably well compared to their predecessors.
There are, of course, everyday things you can do to reduce risk. The WannaCry malware that brought havoc to businesses around the world used a vulnerability addressed in a patch Microsoft issued – so promptly installing updates is a must. Ongoing user training is also a worthwhile exercise – spotting problem emails or websites is harder than it used to be.
The benefits do, though, outweigh the risks. Strong security should very much be seen as an enabler, something that allows your users to go out into the online world confidently and welcomes your customers without constraint. When your innovations can progress unimpeded, you can use the IoT to offer exciting new services and drive into the digital economy in style.